Leveling Up on the Airfare Game – Finding Cheaper Tickets for Conventions
Written by Etaru
If you’re like me, you have to fly to nearly every anime convention because there are none nearby, and that can add up to quite a bit! Even those who frequent cons in their home states find themselves paying upwards of $500 to visit that wonderful convention across the country, and adding baggage fees, hotels, and food costs, that adds up to quite a bit. So unless we’re endowed with rich allowances (lucky!) or working for the airlines (maybe not so lucky…?), expensive plane tickets tend to hurt our pocketbooks, and our plans.
The cost of living is going up, and we all feel it from purchasing our food, to our fabrics, to our airfare. And it’s not looking like any will go down in price – plane tickets in the US will increase from 10%-15% higher than last year, reports the CEO of FareCompare.com – but if there’s one thing cosplayers are good at, it’s being frugal and finding the good deals. So with the help of Money magazine and some of my own tricks I’ve learned over the years, we’ve compiled you some useful work-arounds that might equal some serious savings.
Don’t shop one of the major travel agencies like Expedia or Orbitz first
They have served us worked well in the past, until airlines got displeased with how some sites were displaying fares and starting pulling out: American Airlines withdrew from Orbitz, Expedia, and Hotwire, and Delta severed ties with CheapOair.com and BookIt.com.
I swear by Kayak.com (formerly Sidestep.com), but Fly.com and TripAdvisor.com also work well. They’re called meta-search engines because they compile multiple fares from different airlines and websites, and link you to where you can purchase those tickets. Sites like Kayak.com are great for searching for the best deals by looking through multiple airlines, nearby airports, and multiple days to really check for the best prices (such as finding that flying in for Anime Expo could be $100 cheaper on Wednesday than on Friday.)
Be careful though, some airlines like Allegiant, Southwest, and Vision don’t even display their fares on meta-engines or online travel agencies (OTA’s).
Don’t Jump at the Lowest Number
It used to be that as soon as you spot a low fare, you jumped it like a horny toad, I used to be the same way, but now it pays to be picky. I’m a loyal Google follower, but Bing.com/Travel now has a Price Predictor that crunches data to make pretty accurate predictions on if prices will fall, remain constant, or rise. It’s not perfect, and sometimes won’t even calculate fares from rural or small airports, but if there’s a 70% chance or more that prices will fall, you might want to take the risk. Also try to book tickets during the week days, because airlines like to hike up prices just a little on the weekends. As a general rule though, try not to book your ticket less than 60 days before the departure time.
If Applicable, Pack Light
This is the most difficult for us cosplayers who need to bring 3 crinoline skirts and no less than 10 wigs, but if possible, attempt to pack your costumes as a carry-on. I’ve saved around $60 on baggage fees going to conventions where I packed small/compact costumes as a carry-on, and with airlines making $900 million on baggage, they don’t need any more money from us.
However, let’s say that a checked bag can’t be avoided. There are a few tips to save a few bucks: most airlines will reduce your first checked bag by about $5 if you pay online the night before checking in, and while it’s small savings, that’s money you can now put towards food. Since many conventions take place at classy hotels, you can ask if your hotel will pay your tab – Kimpton Hotels will credit your bill up to $25 for the second bag. If you travel often, you can also look into getting an airline credit card – Delta and Continental waive your first checked bag, and if you travel on them more than twice a year, it’s worth the $85-95 yearly fee (they waive it for first year customers.) Perhaps the simplest way is to share a bag with someone if you’re traveling with a friend or boyfriend, just don’t go over the 50lb limit.
You can also fly airlines like JetBlue and Southwest that don’t charge for the first checked bag, unfortunately, these are not available in all regions.